In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?
We were “typical” insomuch as we attended a conservative church, made decisions only from the Bible, appeared completely normal on the outside, and claimed that our lives would be lived out as was set forth in all patriarchal/Quiverfull beliefs. We believed doctors were beyond evil and everything could be cured with a clove of garlic or drinking apple cider vinegar.
Our lives were “atypical” insomuch as we lived with our single mother, Mama. We had no father figure. Sure, we saw him on the weekends every so often but we were brainwashed by my mother to think that he was as evil as the second cousin of Lucifer himself. We also did not homeschool. According to my mother, the only “blessed by God” homeschool program was Billy Boy G’s ATI. ATI refused to allow us to homeschool because my dad would not sign on the dotted line. Thus, from start to finish, we attended public school.
In some ways we were very typical: homeschooled, not allowed to date or spend time with the opposite sex, not allowed to attend church youth group, and extremely restricted in our music/movie/book options. However, I never felt like we were really strongly connected to the CP/Q community because my dad had issues with his faith and with accepting his leadership role in our family. We also stood out because my sister and I didn’t wear dresses all the time, and my parents thought it was irresponsible to have more children than you could financially provide for.
My family was typical in that my parents had an extremely large number of children and in that my father worked, my mother homeschooled us, and both believed that women must always be under male authority, first that of their father and then that of their husband, and that that included submission and obedience. We were also typical in that we ascribed to the movement’s purity and courtship teachings. My family was atypical, though, in that there was always a tremendous emphasis put on education, for the girls as well as for the boys. Because of this, I was sent away to college after high school, as were my siblings as they came of age. Oh, and we were required to wear long jean skirts or grow our hair out.
My parents believed that contraception was a sin, that the man is the head of the house and the woman must be in absolute submission, that he is the authority for his daughters until they get married or he dies. We were home schooled, believed in modesty and only wearing skirts.
We were atypical in a sense that my mother never quite let go of her Catholic roots. We did some things Catholic such as Catholic Easter traditions. My mother spoke German with us kids and my Dad couldn’t understand much at all. This kind of enabled my mother to say things to us that my Dad wouldn’t understand, and if he did, he’d tell us how wrong they were. For example, whenever us kids made a mess or someone got hurt, she would exclaim “Holy Virgin Mary help us.” It’s a very Catholic thing to say and my mother always spoke about Mary with great admiration. I think she could never quite let go of her belief in Mary as a living saint.
Due to our language, a lot of P/QF people considered us Amish. This didn’t really mean that they didn’t accept us – they did, they just thought we did things differently. We never had any connections with the Amish though and us kids had to do a lot of explaining. I remember being asked if my family would support the tradition of “rumspringa” (“running around” as in living in the real world to decide if you want to stay with the Amish). We had a lot of explaining to do!
We were “typical” in that we homeschooled and there are nine of us kids. We did a lot of crafts and unit studies on gardening and wilderness survival and various homemaking activities. My dad was suspicious of ATI, so we avoided that quagmire, thankfully.
We were atypical in that we listened to popular (Christian) music, my dad played electric guitar, and the girls were allowed to wear pants. Another atypical element of our family culture was the unstated assumption that all of us would attend college. Education and culture were values in my dad’s family, and they got passed on. We were frequently broke or living frugally out of necessity, but we were raised to appreciate other cultures and the arts. My parents also believed in cultivating a good work ethic from an early age, and we were encouraged to get summer jobs and work in high school. This is rare for most CP/QF families, as girls are usually very sheltered and protected from having to go into the world for employment. As soon as we could prove we could manage our time well and get schoolwork done well and on time, we were encouraged to use our free time to earn a little money to save up for travel or college.
We were typical in the religious views of the movement, the clothes we wore, the gender roles, the discipline procedures, the beliefs in gender roles and spiritual hierarchy in the family, etc. We were atypical in that we were never wholehearted followers of any one group or leader. I remember my Dad criticizing ATI as an organization that was too focused on outward appearances instead of the heart. He usually had something he did not like about each of the big preachers/leaders popular in the homeschool patriarchy movement, but despite this we did purchase products and books from many of them, including Vision Forum. I read almost everything we had around, and I feel that most of what my dad taught was very similar to these leaders, so I am still somewhat confused as to why we never fully subscribed to any of them.
My dad has always been fiercely independent, so we didn’t follow any one specific leader or teaching completely. To this day he claims that he was never really “quiverfull” or “patriarchal,” he was just following what he thought was God’s leading. I think that was a part of the problem. My father did not recognize any authority except the Holy Spirit; which basically meant that he did whatever he wanted, and subscribed to the teachings of people who said exactly what he wanted to hear. My dad always scoffed at ATI people because he said they were “respecters of men.” He could never find a church that was godly enough for him, so we just never went to church. We tried a few Sunday services now and then, but they were never good enough. We had no community. Other than the neighbor kids and my mom’s nearby friend, we did not interact with other people for the first 12-13 years of life.
My family was solidly atypical for Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull. I was an only child. My father was an unbeliever. My mother was the tie that bound me to fundamentalism. It proved to be quite a strong one, as my father’s unbelief unfortunately coincided with a controlling, abusive personality who lived up to all the stereotypes of what “worldly” men were like. I clung to my mother and fell down the hole with her.
In terms of family dynamics, beliefs about what said Scripture taught about gender and family, and overall lifestyles and goals, we were a fairly typical example of the CP/QF trend.
On the atypical side, however, my mother had a huge appreciation for liberal arts of all kinds, so my reading was not restricted in anywhere near the same way as is typical in many CP/QF homes. This proved to be a tremendous benefit to me personally, as I read widely and it helped to keep my mind open and gave me the tools I needed to eventually think through and discard much of what I learned from the world of quiverfull and patriarchy. My siblings and I also had friends and relatives that were secular or existed in the mainstream Christian world that we were permitted to interact with freely, and although that was sometimes awkward because I was so different, I think those influences and relationships helped to provide some grounding and balance to my growing up experience, because the outside world didn’t seem as strange or alien as it otherwise may have.